Cast Catch-Up: Mary Murray

Welcome to the final installation of our five part series, Catch Catch-Up, where the wonderfully talented cast of BUG has shared their thoughts on the script, the rehearsal process, their characters, and everything in between.



It's 9:30pm and I'm learning lines for act one, scene three. Then I remember that I agreed to write a piece for Corps Ensemble's Blog - and it's due for tomorrow! This is not convenient. There's only so many hours in the day and I really need to spend my time getting to grips with the script. Should I ask for an extension? No! If I don't deliver on this deadline, how can I possibly manage to tackle the beast that is 'Bug' by the opening in two weeks time? So here it is:

Why did I agree to get involved in this production?   When approached, I was informed that the playwright was Tracy Letts of 'August: Osage County' fame. I saw the movie version of this and at the time I remember thinking how incredibly dense the dialogue was. The characters were so well rounded and performed brilliantly by a spectacular cast. I could only imagine what it would be like to watch this particular drama unfold as a live theatre audience member. If this was his standard I had no doubt that 'Bug' was going to be a thrilling read. 

Why did I say yes?                                                                                                                              I fell in love with Agnes. I knew she'd be a huge challenge and a role worth playing, I checked out the members of the Corps Ensemble and their credentials. I noticed that they received rave reviews for their recent production of 'Made In China' by Mark O' Rowe. It was very obvious that they had fire in their bellies and a lot of talent. I also have a great fondness for the Viking Theatre. I performed my one woman show 'No Smoke Without Fire' here as well as 'Chancers' by Robert Massey. I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences, so that was a big selling point. Many theatres have lost their personalities. They tend to close the bars immediately and oust the audience members before the actors have time to change out of costume. I really hope they reverse this trend. I feel it's so important to meet the public afterwards, to hear their views and show our appreciation for their efforts.

My Approach                                                                                                                                       The Oklahoma accent was top of my agenda. Once I was satisfied that I had a good grasp on that, I needed to delve into the world of stimulants. It's not a area I knew a great deal about. As a Dubliner I'm cognizant of our nation's epidemic drug misuse. It's evident all across the capital city, but I was only aware of it at surface level. Until very recently I didn't know exactly how to smoke a crack pipe, I didn't know what freebase was, I didn't understand why people drank alcohol while snorting cocaine; I questioned how a particular individual could manage to sleep given the information I had acquired. So many questioned answered, so many more to ask, and there's only two weeks left, and I need to understand paranoia and delusion and psychosis and how close is Agnes to R.C. and what exactly went on in Sakaka, and I still have to find time to learn my lines! 

Cast Catch-Up: Toni O'Rourke

Welcome to the fourth in a five part series, Catch Catch-Up, where the wonderfully talented cast of BUG will be sharing their thoughts on the script, the rehearsal process, their characters, and everything in between.




So you read the play. You think. ‘My god this is a good play.’

You go to the read-through and you think ‘What a kick ass cast. These people know their sh*t. This is going to be fun.’

Then you show up to rehearsals.

Day One: you learn how to smoke a crack pipe.

Day Two: you learn what happens to you when you have successfully smoked a crack pipe. You spend countless hours researching crack addicts and studying their meerkat endearing qualities. What makes these people tick?

Next thing you know; a week has passed and you know exactly how to smoke a pipe without burning your thumb, you know how to make a cocaine envelope, all the while you are praying no one stumbles across your internet history.

The next few weeks will be spent debating whether or not to get cornrows and whether or not I should invite my granny to this production.

Characters are starting to take shape, the story is beginning to unfold and a beautiful chaotic piece of theatre is being created.

One thing is for sure – there is plenty of craic in this rehearsal room.



Cast Catch-Up: Michael Bates

Welcome to the third in a five part series, Catch Catch-Up, where the wonderfully talented cast of BUG will be sharing their thoughts on the script, the rehearsal process, their characters, and everything in between.



So you get the script. You know of the writer but haven’t seen any of his other work. He started out as an actor. He has won awards for his writing. His plays have been made into films. Successful films with big stars. So you’re expecting a well-made play with some snappy dialogue and engaging, performable characters. You start reading and yes, these are very performable, human characters with funny, smart dialogue but there’s a little more going on. Great. You’re interested in these misfits, these outsiders. Okay, these people are a little off kilter and the two central characters are not necessarily the type of people you would put together as a couple. Even better.

You read on and even though the characters are a little unusual you start to like them, you start to root for them. So you keep reading and more characters are introduced and it starts to get even stranger and more dangerous. It keeps moving further and further away from where you thought it was going. Then the character you are going to be playing enters this world and it gets even stranger. And so it goes. You finish reading the script, you fix yourself a stiff drink and try and digest what you just read. Yes, it’s a well-made play with edgy, articulate, fascinating characters. But it’s so much more. Above all else what strikes you is that it’s a searing study of dysfunctional relationships, the type of relationships where the love is a sickness.

Then you start thinking how the hell are we going to stage this play? Who the hell is this character that you will have to bring to life? What the hell was Tracy Letts thinking? Who is this guy? You do a bit more research and you watch a few interviews with Letts on YouTube speaking about his writing and acting and he seems quite normal, a little genteel, perhaps. Then you stumble across a video of him giving a presentation entitled How to Live a Creative Life in which he advises people to lie, steal and masturbate in order to be more creative. And with a wry smile playing across your lips it all starts to make a little more sense.

Cast Catch-Up: Rex Ryan

Welcome to the second in a five part series, Cast Catch-Up, where the wonderfully talented cast of BUG will be sharing their thoughts on the script, the rehearsal process, their characters, and everything in between. 




Week 1 Rehearsal  

The heartbreaking thing about acting is you almost always end up throwing away 90% of the work you’ve done – it doesn’t fit into the rehearsal process, what the other actors are doing, or what the play has turned into after exploring it. The first week of rehearsals is a mercurial process of discovery…AKA a sh!tshow. 

The play we have chosen is Bug by an excellent writer from Oklahoma named Tracy Letts (you may know his two screenplays; Killer Joe and August: Osage County). Each play will demand a different approach from an actor and director so there’s no real definitive thing I/we do. There are some constants though. 

With Bug, there are a few immediate things that need to be considered and tackled and they will sort of dictate where the initial rehearsal time will be spent. Right off the bat there are some technical things I have to start getting my head around e.g. my character, Peter Evans, claims he is an ex-U.S. soldier who has seen combat in Syria. He is from a very remote part of Oklahoma, he was home-schooled etc. So I do the research on these specific things early so they can seep into me as we explore the play. 

This play also throws up other specific technical things like drug use, medication, physical pains and impediments that I like to acknowledge early, do loads of research on, and then forget about it and see if it sits into the character naturally. All the decisions about the character come from the text and are rooted in the play. I gather loads of clues and facts from the script such as what the character says about himself, specific stage directions, what others say he is, where has he come from etc. etc. If the writer is good, you will have everything you need in the script. Many of the decisions are made for you by an excellent writer. 

But it’s not a waste… all of this is like chipping away at a big giant block of marble until you have a sculpture that resembles a human, or-searching for a needle in a hay stack only to find there is no needle and the haystack is a pool of quicksand and you’re dead… 

I’m also a big advocate of learning your lines inside out, following the speech patterns the writer has given you, looking at your scene partner and just doing it. That’s really what it comes down to, and if the writer has given the character love, he/she/it will seep into you over four weeks and be real and honest and people will listen to you.


Cast Catch-Up: Edwin Mullane

Welcome to the first of a five part series, Cast Catch-Up, where the wonderfully talented cast of BUG will be sharing their thoughts on the script, the rehearsal process, their characters, and everything in between. 



I first read Bug in April of this year as part of a lengthy selection process. It was a difficult job to decide on a follow-up to Made in China and though I was thoroughly relishing the task ahead, the novelty of reading several plays a day had started to rub off. All the plays had something in them: an interesting premise, some nice dialogue, a certain style or approach, but I had yet to read a stand-out piece of work, or a play that screamed a vital immediacy.

I remember my first impressions of Bug very well because I was so off the mark – “too American?”; “too naturalistic, too straightforward perhaps”; “Oklahoma setting might not resonate with an Irish audience, could be a very difficult to stage” etc… Such unfair thoughts gradually shifted to “this is quite unique actually”, to “there’s more going on here than I thought” and finally “wow, this is brilliant”.

And it really is. It has a seemingly simple premise – a coming together of two damaged souls and unlikely lovers,  – but beneath the surface there are deeper ideas at work. How far can you go to save a person? Is there a limit to what love can conquer? Can you really trust even those closest to you? And can you recover if the very fabric of your being, your DNA, your humanity, was pushed, stretched, smashed to pieces?

Part of the play’s brilliance is that it doesn’t present any answers.  I strongly believe that the very best theatre isn't always immediate- fragments, questions, themes, images and lines of dialogue that resonate with me for years after seeing an incredible production, usually creep into my own consciousness after a few days or weeks attacking me on a deeply physical, emotional or unconscious level.

As a creative team, Bug will challenge us to create this very type of theatre magic. Letts is a master playwright, and although he has wonderfully used language and imagery to conjure a complexity and mystery that resonates, our job also requires a dedicated pursuit into the layers of dark comedy and lightness that he has crafted deep into the pores of this fine piece of writing. I can honestly say that the audience at the Viking will never have seen anything like this at the Clontarf venue before - for such a visionary piece, it is also vicious and uncompromising. It is complex and dark, has a singular style and presents an unflinching view of human nature that some may find difficult to witness.

Perhaps this is what made it stand out from the rest of the plays – it is unconventional but totally honest, a similarity it shares with The Viking Theatre, a venue not afraid to take risks on the new and unfamiliar, and so supportive of our fledgling company with big ideas. We are a few days into rehearsals and even we don’t know where we will be in 3 weeks time. It’s an exciting place to be, not knowing exactly what will happen next. But when you come to see it I can promise you this: expect to be moved, expect to think deeply, expect to have moral certainties challenged and ideas about theatre upended. I don’t expect you will all like it. All I’d say is you have to see it for yourself.


Hello and welcome to The Corps Ensemble blog! We just want to say a quick hello and let you know about everything that's been happening with The Corps. 

Recently we've expanded our Creative Team to welcome Joe Flavin, New Writing & Production Manager, and Hillary Dziminski, Creative Producer. We're delighted to have new members of the Corps Ensemble family. You can meet the whole Creative Team here:

On another exciting note, we've been working on forming a team for our newest project! It's been a busy few weeks trying to gather a whole crew of actors, designers, and directors, but we're looking forward to announcing the show and the team very soon. 

We hope you're enjoying our new website as much as we are! At The Corps Ensemble we know that we couldn't do what we love without your continued support, and we hope that our new site, along with our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, will help make our connections with you, our audience, even stronger. 

Until next time,

The Corps Ensemble